Month: January 2021 (Page 1 of 2)

Ice hockey scene in Hong Kong worries that kids are suffering without sport – ‘The cure can’t be worse than the disease’

Daryl Wong, Gregory Smyth and Keith Fong say the government needs to take into account the negative impact of not being able to play sports

By Patrick Blennerhassett – South China Morning Post

The Hong Kong government’s restrictions in fighting the coronavirus might now be doing more harm than good, says the co-founder and director of the China Hockey Group, Gregory Smyth.

The city’s hockey scene, which includes ice, inline and ball, has more than 1,200 regular participants, and the majority are kids. Smyth said children should be out playing sports right now, not sitting at home.

Smyth’s CHG runs the Junior Tigers, which has hundreds of youth players who have endured three ice rink shutdowns and  more than 140 days without the ability to play.  He said CHG will survive thanks to strong shareholders, but he feels the physical and mental toll may bring the largest cost.

“The big impact is on the parents and the kids,” said Smyth, who launched an elite men’s ice hockey tournament in the mid-1990s in his first official foray into the sport in Hong Kong. “The kids aren’t getting enough exercise. They’re getting depressed, they’re online all the time, they’re on devices and parents have to look after these kids if they’re not in school. It has a pretty negative impact.”

Smyth said he understands the need to fight the pandemic, but feels as if the government’s restrictions have gone too far.

“The cure can’t be worse than the disease,” he said. “We’re in a situation now where some of the regulations are worse than the cure.”

Smyth said ice hockey, which has roots in Hong Kong dating back three decades, also stands on the precipice of exploding. Two new ice rinks were to open just before the pandemic swept in early last year – a sheet in Discovery Bay and one at The Lohas, a new development in Siu Chik Sha.

This would bring the city’s total to five ice rinks, and allow for a massive expansion in terms of players, coaches and jobs. Each rink also hosts daily public skating and figure skating, helping bring in revenue given ice rinks are expensive to run and maintain.

“The sport is ready to boom and the next generation is there,” said Smyth. “This isn’t an expat sport. Our Junior Tigers programme is probably 80 per cent Chinese, so we’ve been able to introduce the sport quite well and grow it locally. We have a number of parents that have gone to school overseas and experienced it and then come back and have their kids play here.”

Hong Kong’s sport and recreation community finds itself suffering through blanket restrictions that have lumped outdoor sports with indoor sports. Smyth said one of the oddest things is the CHG runs games and practices out of Mega Ice, which is located within the Mega Box shopping complex in Kowloon Bay.

Ice hockey has been a mainstay at Mega Box for decades now

“The mall is open and full of people all the time, but the rink is closed. Figure that one out.”

Hong Kong’s fourth wave has now dragged on for months, and sports venues and gyms have been locked down since early December with no end in sight. Reports are the government isn’t considering lifting any current restrictions until well after the Lunar New Year, which runs from February 12-15.

Keith Fong, CEO of Powerplay Sports & Entertainment, which runs the inline league at the Jordan YMCA, and who has been involved in the city’s overall hockey scene for more than 20 years, said there is also an issue when it comes to Hong Kong’s geography.

Ice hockey’s hot beds lie in countries like Canada, the US and all over Scandinavia and Russia, where kids have massive green spaces and outdoor options to fill in the void of not being able to play. Hong Kong, although littered with country parks and hiking trails, pales in comparison, and also has some of the most cramped living spaces in the developed world.

“It’s different than say, in North America, where you might at least have a backyard,” said Fong, who was the coach of the National Hong Kong Inline Hockey team that competed in the 2018 Asian Roller Games in South Korea.

“But you know we’re cooped up here in four or five hundred square feet apartments, if that. So that’s where I come from when I look at this and its impact. There are no real alternatives for these kids right now.”

The closures have invariably hit the hockey scene’s coaches, which includes Daryl Wong. He works as an after school activity service provider, running inline lessons as well as ball hockey. He said he has received two government relief grants, one for HK$7,500 and another for $5,000, but they have done little to help his financial situation.

“It’s been quite frustrating to not be able to put effort into the career I chose to do. I have had to scale down,” said Wong, who is also an inline goaltender.

Wong said he worries the government may not fully understand how much people love the games they play and rely on it for their livelihood and happiness.

“You would think the government would understand how integral sport is to people’s lives at this point,” he said.

Q & A with Sebastian Kahuna

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

We had the great pleasure of interviewing Sebastian Kahuna who is an actor and producer, known for Santo Domingo, The App and The I-Land (2019) Sebastian is also a huge hockey fan and started hockey in Dominican Republic.

How did you get started in developing the game of hockey in the Dominican Republic?

I first started to travel to the DR for pleasure and soon came the famous NHL playoff season and I realized that it was nearly impossible to follow the games back then.

So we started what is today Kahuna on Cabarete beach on the North Coast of the DominicanRepublic. Today it is a full beach hotel with an ocean front restaurant bar on the first level . Back then it was a small typical Beach Bar but operated as an American Sports Bar with multiple TVs where the patrons gathered to watch their favorite sports.

Being Canadian, Hockey was always featured and with time… and over many beers & wings while sitting on the beach, the idea of playing hockey and having our own team came and just like that the Kahuna Hockey Team was created. Has things grew we hosted various tournament s and events including; Embassy challenges, All-Inclusive Resorts Packages including Tournaments for tourists and the Alex Burrow’s Cup.

Are all the players locals or are there expats?

A mixture of both. But mostly expats from all around the world and retired players.

DR team at the Alex burrows cup in 2016

How did former NHLer Alex Burrows get involved?

We have a friend in common, who is in charge of the Burrow s cup and we try hosting it at least once a year. ALEX is a deck hockey veteran and has always pushed its development. They, reached out to us when they heard about what we were trying to accomplish here in the Caribbeans and since we don’t have an ice rink yet it just made sense to join our journeys.

DR team at the Alex burrows cup in 2017

In 2015 the Florida Panthers hosted a hockey clinic on the Island. How did this event help bring awareness to the game?

The PR event increased drastically the energy and the hope of an Latin-American league to grow and for many Ice Rinks to be build over the region. It also spiked the interests of some current NHL retired and active Hockey players to get involved and support us.

Before this interview we talked a little bit and you mentioned that you also do ice hockey training, but you have to travel. Where do you go and how many players go with you?

Over the years we have been going to various cities for different tournaments and also to played short seasons. In my case I have been fortunate to manage to play a few full summer seasons in Alberta (where 2 Edmonton City league Cups were won, thanks to my Canadian fellows over thereunder!!!) and half winter seasons in Quebec. Toronto(Canada), New York(USA), Barcelona(Spain) and others.

Where does the funding come from?

For our normal season the money comes from us the players. Some of it has come from Kahuna initially when we first started but now that money is. mostly used for tournaments, or events (which may include beers and wings on occasion) LOL

This what teams play for the Alex Burrows Cup

There is speculation that the Dominican Republic will play their first ice hockey game in Puerto Rico when this pandemic is over. Is this true?

Yes. It is in the works! We were very close to make this a tangible reality and make it over to visit our friends over in Puerto Rico last year but COVID19 had other plans for us. Let’s hope things come back to normal soon.

Are there any future plans to play in the Latam Cup, like your neighbors Puerto Rico and Jamaica did last year?

Yes. We will most likely see for the first time in history a Dominican Republic ice hockey team in the next Latin cup. And I cannot wait to see our names appear on that CUP!!!

Possible DR Jersey’s for Latam Cup

Are there any plans to have a Hockey Association or Federation in the future?

Yes, as you know we’ve been working on having an ice hockey rink here for the last 10 years and being part of such organization would be a must.

You are an actor and producer, what sort of things are you working on for 2021 and will we see you in any movies or films next year?

Yes most definitely . Many of 2020’s releases were paused with the closures of the movie theaters, therefore 2021 will have many Productions released which I’m part of.

o keep this answer short, the best I can say for people is to follow me on social medias where I release scoops and details on some upcoming films sebastiankahuna on Twitter, Facebook and also on IMDb  : where some movie productions or being posted. One thing I can say is that hockey and baseball will be soon featured on the big screen.

WHEN ASKED; Sebastian did not deny the possibility of seeing this crazy “Hockey in the Caribbean Adventure” displayed on the big screen. Sebastian added that it made it big for the “Jamaican bobsled Team” back in the days why not doing the same again in a Hockey Movie!


Team GilgitBaltistan Sports Association wins Pakistan Ice Hockey Championship

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Pakistan just finished holding the Pakistan Winter Sports Festival where Skiing, Ice Skating and Ice hockey events took place.  At 3rd Ice Hockey Championship. The final was played between GB Scouts and GB Sports Association. It was easy sailing for the team of GB Sports Association as they scored seven goals while their rivals score zero goals. Teams of PAF, Pak Army, GB Scouts, Punjab, Sindh, Civil Aviation Authority and GB Ski Association participated in the event.

Chief Minister Gilgit Baltistan Khalid Khurshid while addressing a high level meeting on International ski traversing event and promotion of winter sports said that winter sports would be promoted in Gilgit-Baltistan.

He said that steps would be taken to attract tourists to Gilgit-Baltistan events in winter.

Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid expressed happiness over the success of Gilgit-Baltistan Ice hockey team and congratulated all the players that tool part.

Face of Dutch women’s hockey

Netherlands captain Savine Wielenga skates during the key game against Korea at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group B

By Liz Montroy –

If you ask young female hockey players in the Netherlands who their favourite player is, chances are they will all have the same answer.

“They will say that it’s Savine Wielenga,” said Dutch national team assistant coach Nancy van der Linden.

Van der Linden has seen Wielenga go from national team rookie to team captain and the face of women’s hockey in the Netherlands. Now over 13 years since her first World Championship tournament, Wielenga is helping lead her country that historically earned promotion to the Division I Group A – the highest level the Dutch women’s program has competed in yet.

Van der Linden, a former national team player, was impressed the first time she met Wielenga. “I saw her and I was thinking, woah, she has a lot of talent,” she said. “She’s a smart player, she’s a social player… she’s complete.”

Since making her international debut in 2007, Wielenga’s hockey career has taken her from the Netherlands to Sweden twice. While she originally dreamed of playing in North America after high school, Wielenga decided to further her hockey skills in Sweden after receiving an offer from Linkoping HC. She joined the team for the 2007/08 season, but was unfortunately sidelined for much of it due to an injury.

“I finished the season there, but I went home after to recover, mentally mostly, and then I started studying in Amsterdam,” said Wielenga. “From that I rolled into a really good job that I still have.”

After a decade of playing on various teams in the second- and third-tier men’s leagues of her country, she received another offer from Sweden that she couldn’t pass up.

“[In 2019], I got another e-mail from Sweden from a different club [SDE HF]. That made me think, oh it would be cool – I’m near the end of my career – to do another year or two at the highest level in Europe while I still can. I always had a sort of revenge feeling for that first year in Sweden that wasn’t a success, and I got the chance now.”

Last season with SDE HF, Wielenga contributed 11 goals and 11 assists through 36 games. The team had one of its best seasons yet, securing more wins and goals and allowing fewer goals against than it ever has in the top Swedish women’s hockey league SDHL.

Wielenga is back on SDE HF’s roster for the 2020/21 season and has contributed six goals and four assists in 19 games. And she hopes she can use her experience at that level for the national team once international women’s hockey will be back.

After being relegated to the Division II Group A in 2016, the Netherlands quickly rebounded, winning gold in 2018. In 2019 they took it one step further, winning Division I Group B gold for the first time to earn promotion to Division I Group A.

Savine Wielenga accepts the trophy for the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group A winners from IIHF Council member Marta Zawadzka

Wielenga had one of her best World Championship appearances yet in 2019. For the first time in her career, she led the tournament in goals (8) and points (10, tied with Korea’s Jongah Park). She also received her first ever Best Forward award and was named her team’s Top Player for the first time since 2009.

A humble leader, Wielenga attributes her team’s success to an increased focus on off-ice training and, most notably, the addition of players from the Dutch U18 women’s national team, which made its IIHF debut in 2018.

“[The U18 team] keeps that group of younger girls together. When I joined the national team, I was the only one from my year,” explained Wielenga. “We all would add to the national team individually and now they come in little groups and they already have some national team experience from the under-18s.”

Many of the country’s up-and-coming players are given opportunities to practise with the senior national team throughout the year, introducing them to a high performance environment. It also gives them a goal to reach for.

“They have another reason to keep playing hockey, which is the national team,” said Wielenga. “If you only play with boys, you might be the only girl on your team. It’s really common that [girls] quit after a couple years… So with the under-18 team being there, early on they get a feeling of how it is to play for your country.”

The Netherlands has made great strides over the last few years, winning back-to-back golds and seeing the launch of the U18 women’s program. Despite the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 tournaments due to COVID-19 forcing a delay in making it to the Division I Group A competition, Wielenga and her teammates are remaining focused and determined.

“We just want to prove that it wasn’t by accident that we moved up two years in a row. I think we can really play with the countries above us,” she said. “We have so much passion for the sport… we all play because we want to play, and I think that’s the most important thing.”

While Wielenga can still play hockey as top-level senior hockey is allowed in Sweden, rules have been stricter in the Netherlands where no games have been played in any league since October.

Once hockey is back, the Netherlands will play in the Olympic Pre-Qualification Round 2 next October where Poland, Mexico and Turkey will be the opponents for a berth in the final round in the qualification for Beijing 2022.

In the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A the Dutch will play Sweden, France, Norway, Austria and Slovenia.

Young Standout Yu Sato Shooting for Success

By Jim Armstrong – Japan Forward

Teenager Yu Sato, who has already played for teams on three continents, is aiming to become the first Japanese forward in the National Hockey League.

Japanese ice hockey player Yu Sato has already played on three continents. Now the native of Saitama is aiming to take his game to the highest level with dreams of becoming the first Japanese forward in the National Hockey League.

Sato helped Japan win the gold medal at an Under-20 Division II tournament at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s world championships in January. The talented 18-year-old forward also had a stint with the Quebec Remparts, one of the most storied teams in Canadian junior hockey.

Ice hockey has a long history in Japan but has struggled for recognition against more popular sports like baseball, soccer and rugby. That may change if a player like Sato could make it in the NHL.

In Quebec, the 5-foot-10 (178 cm), 175-pound (79.3 kg) Sato was coached by Patrick Roy, a Hall of Fame goaltender who had a stellar 19-year NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche. He was also coach and vice president of hockey operations with the Avalanche.

Roy said he was impressed with the play of Sato while he was in Quebec during the 2019-20 season.

“He’s a good skater, he sees the ice very well and overall he’s a quality person,” Roy said. “It’s a big change, obviously the culture is totally different but he seems to adapt very well.”

Forward Yu Sato played for the Quebec Remparts in 2019-20

Fukufuji was First Japanese Native in NHL

Japan has never had a player in the NHL other than goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji, who had a brief stint with the Los Angeles Kings in 2006-07.

There have been plenty of players of Japanese descent, like Paul Kariya and, more recently, Nick Suzuki, but a forward born and bred in Japan has never made it to the world’s most competitive league.

Sato got his start in hockey near his hometown with the Saitama Junior Warriors, a youth development team that also produced Aito Iguchi, who became an internet sensation when a video of him displaying his dazzling stick handling skills at the age of 11 went viral.

There was a time when ice hockey was primarily played on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido but due to several factors, including economic ones, the game is spreading to more populous regions like Saitama, which is just north of Tokyo.

Like many young Japanese players with talent, Sato, who plays left wing, knew that he needed to go overseas to fully develop as a player, so it was off to Moscow at the tender age of 11. He played for Krylia Sovetov in the junior hockey ranks in 2017-18, scoring 14 goals with 13 assists in 27 games.

He then spent another season in Finland before ending up with the Remparts for the 2019-20 season.

The Remparts are one of the league’s oldest teams and play in the 18,000-seat Videotron Center in Quebec City. Over the years the team has produced such hockey luminaries as Mario Lemieux and Guy Lafleur.

Opportunity for Growth

After the league shut down in late November due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sato moved to the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League. Playing in 12 of the team’s 13 games through January 9, he recorded five assists.

During his stint in Quebec, Sato got to play against some of the best young players in the game, including Alexis Lafreniere who was selected first overall by the New York Rangers in the NHL Entry Draft on October 7, 2020.

Sato struggled with injuries early on during his time with Quebec and scored four goals and had six assists in 39 games.

“I think maybe he put too much pressure on himself,” Roy said. “The stats will come so statistics are not the main thing for him. We wanted him to develop into the best player he can be and I like what I’ve seen so far.”

Clearly, Sato’s time in Quebec and his team’s performance at the worlds in Lithuania show ice hockey in Japan is making progress.

“I think a lot of it is younger players like Sato have so much more access to information than players did a while ago,” said Chris Wakabayashi, director and GM of the Asia League’s Tohoku Free Blades. “They can go overseas and get valuable experience and that’s a huge factor.”

Wakabayashi, a Japanese-Canadian who has had a long coaching career in Japan, says he sees a lot of changes in the game here that bode well for the future.

“You see more kids like Sato in the Tokyo area getting into the sport,” said Wakabayashi. “There is now a professional team in Yokohama [Asia League expansion squad Yokohama Grits] and there is a lot of improvement in the level of coaching.”

Sato will be eligible for next year’s NHL draft and Wakabayashi said he thinks the young native of Saitama has the potential to someday make it with an NHL team.

“He already has a lot of international experience so I think he has a chance,” Wakabayashi said. “If a player like Sato was ever to make it in the NHL it would take the game to another level here.”

Serbia: Culture shock, for better or for worse

Daniel Jacob, assistant coach with the Laval Rocket, and his ex-teammate Marko Kovacevic

Guillaume Lefrançois La Presse
Google translated.

As many young Quebecers are doing now, Daniel Jacob was watching the World Junior Championship during his Christmas break.

And like a tiny minority of these young people, the one who is now an assistant coach with the Laval Rocket was able to live his dream: he took part in the World Hockey Championship, not once, but twice.

Well… It was division (D2). and then (D1). At the senior level, not junior.

And he wasn’t playing for Canada, but rather for Serbia.

The Serbian experience has been fruitful on all fronts. He had a great hockey experience, he met his wife, Danica, and left there with a passport. Today, Daniel Jacob maintains very close ties with his former adopted country.

Carts and BMW

Professional hockey is generally played in areas where the standard of living is relatively high. Jacob, incidentally, played a season in Sweden after his four-year college career at McGill University.

Then, in 2006, he landed in Serbia, on the recommendation of another McGill player, Marko Kovacevic. His new home was in Novi Sad, the country’s second largest city. A pretty place, at first glance. “A mini-Prague! describes Jacob. There is a fortress, a magnificent church in the city center. There are Austro-Hungarian and Turkish influences. Small  cobblestone streets. Everything is beautiful ! “

But Serbia also comes in 38th place (out of 43 countries) in Europe for the Human Development Index of the UN, which measures the quality of life. Jacob quickly realized that he was setting foot in a society plagued by great social inequalities.

“I remember, we arrive at an intersection, in the light, there was a gypsy with his horse or his donkey, and right next to it, a BMW. It is a world of contrasts. It struck us, we are used to having a middle class. We quickly realized that we were making a good living in the country. “

Culture shock was as much daily as it was at the arena. Serbia is obviously not the birthplace of hockey. The most recent annual report of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) tells us that there are 4 ice rinks in the country and that there are a total of 714 players, for a country of 7.2 million inhabitants . By comparison, Canada has 7,800 rinks and 600,000 players, according to the same report.

“You make the jump quickly. Ice hours were not a problem, since the sport is not very popular, he recalls. Culturally, it’s quite different. Practice at 8 a.m., it’s not a big deal if it starts at 8:25 a.m.! “

According to Daniel Jacob, this wobbly side also explains why foreign players are rare in Serbia. In Canada, we earned a decent average salary“ But in Serbia players have a second job. There are delays, the check does not come in on the scheduled day. Serbia isn’t all wrong, but there was no direct deposit, let’s say. It may be harder for those who play for the money. “

A program for young people

We understand quite quickly: Daniel Jacob was not playing “for the money”. His season in Sweden had left him unsatisfied, and he was looking for a real life experience by traveling to Serbia, in the company of his friend Marc-André Fournier, another McGill alumni.

“The deal breaker was that we were dealing with a program for young people. In Sweden, I found it redundant to just get up and go to the arena. I would have liked to get more involved. “

Jacob was therefore able to provide hockey equipment to young people across the country, sometimes through the Goals & Dreams program of the NHL and the Players’ Association, sometimes through an initiative of his alumni.

“We won 20 CCM Hockey Gear Carry Bags [via Goals & Dreams]. McGill sent us 10 bags of equipment. Even though it was used, it was super good quality, because a used skate here is still good there. We helped the young people in English, and they helped us in Serbian. “

U12 tournament in Bled, Slovenia

Because yes, Jacob learned Serbian there, which he still speaks today, for the simple reason that he met his wife there, that they have a house there and that they return there. every year to visit the family.

“I’m doing very, very well. On the other hand, there are verbs, that, I still have no understanding, so I make a lot of mistakes! It’s erratic, but I make myself understood. My son speaks it, and for us it’s important that he can communicate with his grandparents. My wife speaks to him in Serbian at home. “

Serbian passport

Which brings us back to the 2009 World Championship. In the eyes of the IIHF, for a player to be able to change his nationality, he must be a citizen of the country and must have played at least two seasons in a row in that country. (four seasons for players who have already represented another country on the international stage).

So Daniel Jacob fulfilled these conditions. “Otherwise, I’m sure they would have found a way!” he laughs. We had to go to Belgrade to present our case. Novi Sad was the host city of the tournament and the owner of our club looked after the national team. It was important to him. One hour before the unveiling of the training sessions, we came back from Belgrade with our passports! “

As we said, it was obviously not the highest level. But against China, North Korea, Iceland, Israel and Estonia, Serbia finished first in their group, securing promotion to the second division.

In 2010, the Serbs were therefore disembarked in Tilburg, Netherlands, in a group that includes the Netherlands, Ukraine, Japan, Lithuania and Austria. Unable to find the results from official sources, the IIHF archives being inaccessible. According to Wikipedia, however, Serbia lost their first game 13-0 against Austria. Really ?

” Yes sir ! We arrived there with a rounded chest. But Austria was serious, and the equipment manager ordered us roller hockey sticks! They had 70 flex It was like play with spaghetti!

But hey, Daniel Jacob has no bitterness when he recounts the event. Basically, it was precisely this rudimentary aspect that had attracted him to Serbia. And this is what allows him today to teach life lessons to his son, Teodor.

Teodor and Danica, last winter, in Novi Sad

My son went back over there during spring break, just before the pandemic, to visit his grandparents. There was a friendly tournament in Novi Sad. My son brought his skates and he was able to participate, but they loaned him the rest of the equipment. His first reaction when he saw the equipment: “Well, what is that?” It was a nice reality check for my son. I was glad he saw it. “


A sports complex with an ice rink in Chingeltei district will be opened soon

Source: GoGo Mongolia

An ice rink will be opened soon in the territory of the Chingeltei district, Mongolia, behind the 39th school of Denjiin Myanga.

The Deputy Governor of Chingeltei District, said that the sports complex has 1,000 seats in addition to the ice rink, which is open in winter and summer, as well as a swimming pool, basketball and volleyball courts.

The construction of the complex, which is being built with the state budget investment, is about 90 percent complete, and the landscaping work has not been completed yet, so it is expected to be commissioned after the new year.

Residents of the complex will be able to use the service free of charge.


Chingeltei district Ice rink. In Mongolia

Perfect Knight for U.S. gold

Arthur Kaliyev and Alex Turcotte celebrate a Team USA goal in the gold-medal-game win against the U.S.

By Andrew Podnieks –

Trevor Zegras had a goal and assist and Spencer Knight was terrific in goal for the Americans as they won their fifth all-time gold medal with a flawless 2-0 win over Canada. It was a game of tight checking and stifling defence, blocked shots, great saves, and few great scoring chances.

This was the fifth time the North Americans have met for gold, and after losing the first one the U.S. has now won the last four.

Knight was particularly sensational in the third period as Canada tried everything to get a goal. Shots were 15-1 in the last 20 minutes, and 34-21 overall for Canada, but Knight stopped them all.

With his two points,  Zegras wins the scoring title with 18 points to go with being named tournament MVP.

This game was also the 12th shutout of the tournament, surpassing 2004 for the most in one U20 event. And, it was the lowest-scoring game between the two countries since a 1-1 tie in Winnipeg in 1999.

It was clear from the early going that Canada was going to continue its game of puck pressure, but equally clear that the Americans could handle the strategy by moving the puck quickly. Canada controlled the early going in this way, but unlike all previous games when it got an early goal to create some forward momentum, the U.S. held the fort and slowly but surely wrested control from the hosts.

This change of pressure from Canada to the United States resulted in a period of sustained pressure inside the Canada end, and as the defensive players wore down the Americans forced the issue. Zegras got the puck back to the point where Drew Helleson took a quick shot that was tipped in front by Alex Turcotte, beating Levi at 13:25.

That goal alone ended Levi’s bid for a record fourth shutout, another bid for the longest shutout sequence, and Canada’s bid for going through the tournament without trailing.

More important, the goal energized the U.S., and they came right back with another great shift. That momentum was dulled by a tripping penalty, the first to either side in a period in which the referees let the players play. On the ensuing power play Canada was all over the Americans, but Knight stood tall in goal and Canada misfired when it mattered most. 

It was still a 1-0 game after 20 minutes, but Canada went to the dressing room feeling better while the U.S. was very happy with its period.

It was the Americans, though, who started the second firing on all cylinders, and just 32 seconds in they made it 2-0. Canada failed to get the puck out, and a quick shot by Arthur Kailyev went wide. But Levi thought the puck was coming out to his left, and instead it came out the other side where Zegras flipped it into the empty cage.

Canada dominated the rest of the period, but it encountered two problems it hadn’t previously. One, the players started to miss great chances they usually buried. Two, Knight was playing flawlessly in the blue ice.

Bo Byram joined the rush on a short-handed odd-man rush, and his shot off the deke hit the post. Quinton Byfield had a great chance in front but shot wide, and Braden Schneider was stopped from in close by the glove of Knight.

In all, Canada couldn’t buy a goal despite leading the tournament with 41 through six games.

In the third, Knight was the difference, to be sure, but the Americans gave Canada the puck but little time to do anything. The result was plenty of puck possession but not many bona fide chances. 

Lundell leads Finns to bronze

Finland celebrates after captain Anton Lundell (#15) opens the scoring in the 4-1 bronze medal win over Russia

By Lucas Aykroyd –

In a tight battle, captain Anton Lundell scored twice as the Finns beat Russia 4-1 to win the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship bronze medal game.

It was Finland’s first bronze medal since star goalie Tuukka Rask backstopped his nation to third place in Vancouver in 2006. In the 2010’s, the Finns won either gold (2014, 2016, 2019) or nothing. All-time, this is Finland’s seventh bronze, with five wins and two losses.

Coach Antti Pennanen’s boys, who trailed 1-0 after the first period, staged comebacks in all three of their medal-round games, including the 3-2 quarter-final win over the Swedes and the 4-3 defeat against the Americans.

Russia lost a bronze medal game for the first time in nine tries and finished out of the medals for just the second time in the last 11 years (fifth in 2018). The Russians, who took silver in 2020 with a 4-3 final loss to Canada, have one gold in their last 18 World Juniors (2011).

Both Pennanen and Russian head coach Igor Larionov gave their starting goalies a vote of confidence for the bronze medal game. Kari Piiroinen and Yaroslav Askarov each made their sixth appearance. Finland outshot Russia 32-29. Askarov performed markedly better after a rough outing in the 5-0 semi-final loss to Canada.

The Russians stormed out of the gate, firing seven shots on goal before Finland got one. Piiroinen was forced to stop Yegor Chinakhov with his blocker on a clear break. Minutes later, Russian captain Vasili Podkolzin barged to the net and just tipped a cross-crease pass off the post.

Ilya Safonov made it 1-0 at 6:03. The AK Bars Kazan winger capitalized on some spadework by Maxim Groshev, who stickhandled to the middle before launching a backhander on goal. Safonov converted the rebound for his second goal of the tournament.

To open the second period, Finnish defenceman Ville Heinola inadvertently clipped Chinakhov in the face. However, the Finns killed the penalty off with ease, and at 5:05, they got the equalizer.

Topi Niemela, who leads all World Junior blueliners with eight points, wristed a shot that Lundell tipped in. Lundell and Heinola are the only two returnees from the golden 2019 team.

Late in the period, with Finland pressing, Lundell pivoted to make a marvelous cross-crease feed to Eemil Viro, but the puck bounced off Viro’s stick and he was shaken up after going hard into the end boards.

In the third period, Mikko Petman made it 2-1 Finland at 1:13, getting his stick on Viro’s left point shot to deflect it past Askarov. It was a great time for the 19-year-old Lukko winger to notch his first World Junior goal.

At the Russian bench, Podkolzin urged his team to keep giving it their all. Unfortunately, he bumped into teammate Shakir Mukhamadullin in the neutral zone and his stick then hit Mantykivi in the face.

Taking a double minor for high-sticking with under seven minutes to play was a tough blow for the trailing Russians. The Finns, whose PP came in clicking at 40 percent (8-for-20), couldn’t get a shot here, but it killed valuable time.

Larionov called his timeout and yanked Askarov for the extra attacker with 1:55 left and a faceoff in the Finnish end. The Russians stormed Piiroinen’s crease, but couldn’t jam one in. Time ran out as Lundell, with his team-leading sixth goal, and Juuso Parssinen added empty-netters to round out the scoring.

The Finns, not as talented on paper as in previous years, did well with their relentless five-man commitment to two-way hockey. The jury is still out on whether Larionov’s vision of resurrecting a more creative, Soviet style of Russian hockey will spawn gold someday.

After not suiting up against Canada, forward Vladislav Firtsov slotted into Larionov’s lineup here in place of the injured Arseni Gritsyuk. Finland, meanwhile, replaced forward Petteri Puhakka with Roby Jarventie.

Both Finland and Russia will be looking to top the podium when the IIHF World Junior Championship returns to Edmonton and Red Deer in 2022.

U.S. edges Finns to make final

Matthew Boldy scores Team USA’s third goal in a tight 4-3 win over Finland

By Lucas Aykroyd –

In a hard-fought semi-final, Arthur Kaliyev scored the winner with 1:16 left as the U.S. defeated Finland 4-3 on Monday to advance to the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal game against host Canada.

“It’s something that you dream about, USA and Canada in a gold medal game,” said John Farinacci, who also scored for the Americans. “It’s gonna be a fun game, and we’ve got to play a full 60 minutes if we want to get that gold medal.”

Versus Finland, Kaliyev, set up by Alex Turcotte, fired a laser over goalie Kari Piiroinen’s glove to give coach Nate Leaman’s team the victory.

“My eyes lit up and I just ripped it to him and he had an unbelievable shot,” said Turcotte.

The Finns rallied from a two-goal second period deficit to make it 3-3 in the third, but couldn’t pull off another sensational comeback like their 3-2 quarter-final win over Sweden. Finland will face Russia for the bronze medal.

“It’s gonna be tough for sure,” said Finnish head coach Antti Pennanen. “But of course, it’s our last game. So I hope we bring the team effort tomorrow.”

Tuesday will mark the fifth Canada-USA final in World Junior history (1997, 2004, 2010, 2017). Surprisingly, given Canada’s overall dominance at this tournament, the U.S. has won the last three gold-medal clashes.

This semi-final provided revenge for the Americans after two consecutive medal-round losses to Finland. The Finns edged the U.S. 3-2 in the 2019 gold medal game in Vancouver. Finland also won the 2020 quarter-final 1-0 in Trinec.

“It was a hump we had to get over, and I’m really proud of the guys,” said Leaman.

U.S. goalie Spencer Knight, who has recorded two shutouts in Edmonton, and Finland’s Piiroinen, who has one, both got their fifth starts of the tournament. Finland outshot the U.S. 36-26.

Like Kaliyev, Turcotte had a goal and an assist for the U.S., and Matthew Boldy had the other goal. Kasper Simontaival scored twice and Roni Hirvonen added a single for the Finns, while Ville Heinola chipped in two assists.

The Americans are looking for their fifth all-time gold medal (2004, 2010, 2013, 2017). Meanwhile, the Finns will try to win bronze for the first time since 2006 in Vancouver.

“It’s been a really awesome trip with these guys to be here in the bubble,” said Finland’s Kasper Puutio. “We still want to get a medal and be proud of this team. So we’re still definitely going to be giving the best that we have tomorrow and trying to get the bronze medal.”

The Finns carried the early play territorially, hounding the Americans around the rink. U.S. scoring leader Trevor Zegras (16 points, tied with Canada’s Dylan Cozens) unsuccessfully attempted the lacrosse move that Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov used to score twice last season.

Turcotte opened the scoring at 12:39 with his second goal of the tournament. Kaliyev fired a shot that bounced off Turcotte’s leg at the side of the net, and he banged the puck past Piiroinen’s right skate.

This semi-final pitted the tournament’s two top power-play teams against each other. The U.S. came in clicking at 42.1 per cent, while the Finns were at 40 per cent (6-for-15).

At 14:06, Simontaival tied it up on Finland’s first man advantage. Heinola took a centre-point shot that Kasper Puutio directed to a wide-open Simontaival in front for his third of these World Juniors.

“There were points in the game where we really played good hockey and were on our toes, but there were points where we were just falling back too much and letting the Finns dictate,” said Leaman.

In the second period, Finland’s hustle continued to frustrate the more talented Americans. A stretch pass from Turcotte to Zegras looked promising, but Eemil Viro was there to intercept it.

On a mid-game Finnish man advantage, the offensive pressure was relentless. Knight came up big to deny Puutio on a dangerous one-timer. And then the Americans’ quick-strike attack shifted the momentum.

An opportunistic Farinacci took a beautiful stretch pass from Jackson LaCombe when the Finns were completing a line change, and he beat Piiroinen on a breakaway to make it 2-1 at 15:53.

“I love the fact that Jackson LaCombe made that great play today to send Farinacci in,” said Leaman.

Less than a minute later, life got tougher for Finland as Aku Raty took a double-minor for high-sticking Boldy, giving the Americans their first power play. And Boldy, although slightly bloodied, went straight to the net to tip in Zegras’s heads-up pass from the high slot at 17:00 for a 3-1 lead.

Early in the third, Finland got a tremendous opportunity when Cole Caufield got dinged for delay of game after flipping the puck over the glass while exiting the U.S. zone. But it came to naught, and the blue-and-white team simply had to take more chances offensively.

At 11:38, Simontaival cut the U.S. lead to 3-2 on a play similar to his first goal, rushing to the net and converting Puutio’s smooth cross-ice pass as Knight lunged with his glove fruitlessly.

“We showed that character that we had in the previous games against Sweden,” said Puutio. “So we knew what we can do. And we were just believing and trusting the process and trying to find a way to come back in the game.”

Incredibly, the Americans took a second delay-of-game minor with 4:42 left, with Henry Thrun the culprit this time. With 3:43 remaining, Hirvonen was right at the crease to bang in the rebound from Finnish captain Anton Lundell’s bad-angle shot.

The Finnish bench went wild. Hirvonen also potted the game-winner with 25 seconds left against Sweden in the 3-2 quarter-final comeback win. But against the U.S., this was as close as Pennanen’s boys would get, despite some late pressure.

“Obviously, that was probably the craziest period of hockey I’ve ever played in,” Farinacci said.

The result gives Finland an all-time World Junior record against the U.S. of 18 wins, one tie, and 17 losses.

« Older posts
Translate »